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Not long ago I was chatting with a client and she was telling me about a person she heard speak recently. She couldn't remember her name or I can’t if she did tell me but the speaker’s message was a great one. The speaker talked about the difference between mental illness and mental health and drew the distinction between them in an interesting and thought provoking way.
The speaker talked about what it meant for people who were not mentally ill but were living with really poor mental health… those who were stressed and anxious, irritable and cranky. I am pretty sure that there aren't too many of you out there who would willingly choose to live your lives like that. However it is all too common. When I talk with clients and friends and family members there are any number of people who exhibit those behaviours or talk with me about people they know who are exhibiting them. It is a sad state of affairs.
And I call it a sad state of affairs for a number of reasons:
- It seems to have become the norm for so many people
- It infects and affects those around the person with poor mental health
- It can too easily tip into mental illness if left unmanaged
The other distinction the speaker made warranting attention is that a person may be living with a diagnosed mental illness and yet have sound mental health. Post diagnosis the person is having therapeutic conversations, has a network of support to help out, may be taking the appropriately prescribed medication and can be living a fulfilling and purposeful life. They actively seek to build and sustain their resilience focussing on everything from physical activity and sleep through to play and creativity. They purposefully maintain good mental health.
The sad state of affairs on this front is that those people are still unlikely to disclose their mental illness status for fear of being judged as loopy, crazy and unfit for purpose.
So what can you and I do to change this?
Firstly, if, on reflection, you are one of those people with poor mental health my invitation is for you to step off the treadmill, think about how you want to feel and interact with others and find the help, support, tips and strategies to shift your mental health status. Yes, this is more easily said than done. However, help is available. Just ask. And if you not sure where to start I highly recommend you check out the “listen on demand” episodes of my Radio Show “But I Feel Good”. Great music, helpful information.
If you fall into the second category of mental illness with sound mental health then here’s my invitation for you! In as many different areas of your life that you feel comfortable (it might be only one) pick ONE PERSON and share your journey of mental illness to sound mental health. Be a part of the movement that is helping those who don’t yet understand that mental illness does not mean a life babbling in a straight jacket.
And from a lovely friend this came across my desk: saying “you don’t have anything to be depressed about, your life is great” is like saying “what do you mean you have asthma, there’s loads of air in here!”
Be a part of moving our society, one person at a time, beyond awareness and into better understanding, greater compassion and acceptance of mental illness.
Because your Mind Health Matters…